Adobe opens parts of Flash in mobile push

The company is aiming for greater use of Flash within mobile and other non-PC devices with the launch of the Open Screen Project
Written by Adrian Bridgwater, Contributor

Adobe is aiming for greater use of its Flash Player multimedia web software within mobile and other non-PC devices by launching its Open Screen Project — an industry alliance it hopes will garner the support of large vendors in the embedded multimedia space.

According to Adobe, Flash is already installed on 98 percent of all internet-enabled desktop PCs worldwide. The company said that removing licensing fees for embedding Flash on devices will drive the move to greater adoption in mobile and other consumer areas such as television. As such, the company will make the next major releases of Flash and the Adobe AIR runtime for devices available on a free-of-charge basis. This means that any handset maker will be able to run Flash or AIR on their device free of charge.

Adobe says its Open Screen Project will bring together prominent device manufacturers, content developers and telecommunications carriers, including Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Cisco, Samsung, Motorola, NTT DoCoMo, Toshiba, Verizon Wireless, ARM, Intel, NBC, MTV and the BBC. In a statement on its website, Adobe said its goal is to provide a consistent platform for rich web and on-demand video development across a variety of devices.

Andrew Shorten, platform evangelist for Adobe Systems UK, said: "The original publication of the SWF [Shockwave Flash] specification has fostered a vibrant ecosystem of companies and developers using Adobe Flash technology across the UK and around the world. Today's announcement will allow these partners to use the file format for any purpose, including the ability to play back SWF and build a consistent application runtime for use across desktops and devices."

Flash technology is used to deliver vector graphics, text, interactivity and application logic, video and sound over the internet. More than 75 percent of broadcasters who stream video on the web use Flash technology. With the company raising its sights beyond the traditional desktop PC market, David Wadhwani, vice president of Adobe's platform business unit, said: "There are five times the number of connected devices than PCs in the world. The consumer market is demanding video and rich content across all of these screens."

In line with the Open Screen Project, Adobe will publish a variety of application programming interfaces (APIs) and protocols related to Flash. The company said that its goal now is to create a consistent runtime environment that will remove barriers for developers and designers as they publish content and applications across desktops and devices, including phones, mobile internet devices (MIDs) and set-top boxes.

"Consumers always want more from their devices," said Doug Fisher, Intel vice president and general manager in the system software division. "Flash Player already reaches the vast majority of internet-connected computers, and our deep technical collaboration with Adobe will optimise Flash technology and Adobe AIR across a broad range of devices, including a version of Adobe AIR for the Mobile and Internet Linux Project, Moblin.org."

The Open Screen Project will attempt to address fragmentation by enabling runtime technology to be updated over the air on mobile devices. The consistent runtime environment is intended to provide optimal performance across a variety of operating systems and devices. Adobe expects more than one billion handsets and mobile devices to ship with Adobe Flash technology by 2009.

The announcement comes just two days after comments from Mozilla warning developers not to rely on proprietary technology like Flash, and a week before the opening of Sun's JavaOne conference in San Francisco. Java powers many of today's mobile programs, and Java and Linux form the foundation for Google's upcoming Android platform.

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